12 Tips on How to Drive Safely in Freezing Rain

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Picture of By <span>Aren Mirzaian</span>
By Aren Mirzaian

Updated on October 25, 2023

Visit author page
Picture of By <span>Aren Mirzaian</span>
By Aren Mirzaian

Updated October 25, 2023

Visit author page

3 minute read

Article Contents
How to Drive Safely in Freezing Rain

Freezing rain is one of the most treacherous weather conditions a driver can face. The roads become slick, visibility is reduced, and the risk of accidents increases significantly. But with the right precautions and knowledge, you can navigate these challenging conditions safely. Drawing inspiration from various expert sources, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to drive safely in freezing rain.

1. Preparation is Key

Have you considered preparing your car for winter? It’s crucial to ensure safety during challenging weather conditions, including freezing rain.

Clear Your Vehicle: Before setting out, ensure all ice and snow are cleared from your vehicle, especially the windows, mirrors, lights, and roof. This ensures better visibility and prevents chunks of ice or snow from flying off your car and hitting another vehicle. 

Equip Your Car: Make sure your car is equipped with winter tires. They offer better traction on icy and snowy roads. Learn about Ontario winter tire discount and what it means to your insurance policy. Also, keep an emergency kit in your car, including snacks, extra clothing, first aid equipment, and other essentials. Make sure to read CCOHS guidelines on what should be included in your kit.

2. Adjust Your Driving Habits

Slow Down: Reduce your speed to account for the road conditions. Remember, the posted speed limits are designed for ideal conditions, not for roads covered in ice.

Increase Following Distance: Under normal conditions, a 3-second gap is recommended. Increase this to at least 6 seconds in icy conditions to give yourself more time to react.

Avoid Sudden Movements: Be gentle with your steering, braking, and acceleration. Sudden movements can cause your vehicle to skid.

3. Handling Skids

Front-wheel Skid: If your front wheels lose traction, don’t panic. Ease off the gas and steer in the direction you want to go. Once the wheels regain traction, you can then turn the wheels in the desired direction.

Rear-wheel Skid: If the rear wheels skid, steer in the direction you want to go. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, turn the steering wheel toward that side.

4. Braking on Icy Roads

With ABS (Anti-lock Braking System): If your vehicle has ABS, do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure, and you’ll feel the brakes pulse, which is normal.

Without ABS: Pump the brakes gently to avoid wheel lock-up, which can lead to a loss of traction.

5. Be Extra Cautious in Certain Situations


  1. When approaching a hill, get some inertia going on a flat roadway before taking on the hill.
  2. Avoid stopping while travelling uphill.
  3. When descending, reduce your speed and proceed slowly.

Bridges and Overpasses: These areas freeze first and thaw last. Even if the rest of the road seems in good condition, approach them with caution.

6. Regional Considerations

Regions like Nova Scotia often experience challenging weather conditions. Ensure you have the right car insurance coverage in Nova Scotia to protect yourself. Similarly, driving in places like Grand Prairie can be particularly challenging during winter. Make sure you’re covered with the best car insurance in Grand Prairie.

7. If Conditions Get Too Bad, Don’t Drive

If you’re already on the road and conditions worsen, find a safe place to pull over and wait for conditions to improve. It’s better to arrive late than not at all.

8. Be Extra Cautious at Night

Visibility can be challenging during freezing rain, especially if it’s at night. For more tips on this, read our guide on Tips for Driving Safely at Night.

9. Plan Ahead

Always check the weather before heading out. Environment Canada and many provinces and territories offer traveller information like “511” and smartphone apps for weather updates, road conditions, and snow plow operations. If the weather is bad, consider waiting for conditions to improve. Always inform someone of your route-planned arrival time, and share your location with friends and family using smartphone apps.

10. Know Your Vehicle

Your vehicle’s owner’s manual can provide insights into specific winter driving recommendations and features. Be aware of driver assistance technologies in your vehicle, as snow and ice can affect their performance.

11. Winter Driving Kit Essentials

It’s good to have a winter driving kit in your vehicle that includes items like a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, traction mats, warning light, extra socks, gloves, non-perishable snacks, water bottles, booster cables, hand and foot warmers, fire extinguisher, extra windshield washer fluid, fuel line antifreeze, lock de-icer, ice scraper, snow brush, flashlight, emergency seat belt cutter, window hammer, and first aid kit.

12. Driving Techniques for Winter Weather

Drive with low-beam headlights on for better visibility. Lengthen the distance between your vehicle and the one ahead. The stopping distance on an icy road is double that of a dry road. Stay in the right-hand lane except when passing, and use turn signals when changing lanes. As per the Ontario MTO guidelines, if you start to skid, look where you want your vehicle to go and steer in that direction. Do not brake or accelerate during a skid.

How to Drive Safely in Freezing Rain

Final Thoughts

Driving in freezing rain can be challenging, even for the most experienced drivers. But with the right knowledge and precautions, you can keep yourself and others safe on the road. Remember, the key is to stay calm, be prepared, and adjust your driving to the conditions. Safe travels!

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